I know I’m harping on about The Order|1886, but to me it is so very rare to find a game that I actually like (and that isn’t made by BioWare) that I do tend to get a bit… focused. Fixated, even. Call it my tendencies to over-love stuff I like. Don’t worry. It won’t go away, but I’ll eventually find something else to love. Oh, by the way, this post may contain spoilers for The Order|1886.
The reason for my fixation with The Order|1886 is not simply the handsome protagonist, but also the fact that the game stands up to two simple tests, that are deceptively hard to manage, in particular for movies. They were both “designed” for a Western culture context, one for the US and one for Sweden. The Chavez-Perez test was brought to my attention by twitterer @OskSandstrom, so thank you for that.
The first test to be passed with flying colors by The Order|1886 is the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test was created by comic book writer Alison Bechdel in her comic Dykes to Watch Out For. It’s also important to note that the test is in no way a “feminist test”. It’s just a big fat spotlight on issues of representation in popular culture. Gameological did a post on games that do manage to pass the test, and I think it’s telling that two of the games (out of fifteen) are Bioware games. The test is as follows:
The movie has to have at least two women in it,
who talk to each other,
about something besides a man.
So for games this would be that the game has at least two women in it (many fail here), who talk to each other (even more fail), about something besides a man (wouldn’t know, but considering that romance isn’t exactly a driving force in games…)
For The Order|1886, this is handled pretty early in the game. There are two rebel leaders, Lakshmi Bey (also known as Rani) and her bodyguard and daughter Devi, in the game. And even though their discussions do focus slightly on the main protagonist, they do have a lot of conversations that doesn’t involve him at all.
Lakshmi is in addition to being a woman, also a very dedicated character. She is ready to die for what she believes in, and she has been fighting the British for a long time.
The second test is a test created by the Swedish journalist and sexologist Inti Chavez-Perez who based his test on the Bechdel test. The following rules apply:
The movie has to have at least one non-white character, played by a non-white actor
Who talks to another non-white character
About something else than crime
The Order|1886 passes this test with flying colors as well. Both Lakshmi and Devi talk to each other, and about something else than crime. Although they do discuss the appropriate way to deal with Sir Galahad, should he become a nuisance. The voice actors are Nishi Munshi (Devi) and Tehmina Sunny (Lakshmi).
In addition to being this awesome, The Order|1886 is also surpisingly refreshing when it comes to the distinct lack of gratuitousness in connection to nakedness and sex. Yes, there’s a brothel in the game, but it is not the kind of place where the player will have objectified women shoved in his or her face. It’s not GTA V which caters to a male heterosexual crowd. Instead, the game has a very matter of fact attitude to both the women working in the place, and the men visiting. There are actually more naked men than women in this game, and neither are sexualised or objectified. The brothel is even treated with a certain level of distaste. Galahad, the main protagonist, is not very comfortable in the surroundings, and that makes me as a player feel safe with the game. I know I won’t be asked to put money in a stripper’s underwear or that the camera will ogle objectified women for me. I’m not pushed into appreciating women’s bodies because I have to, because the game makes me complicit in viewing women as flesh and not as individuals.
The Order|1886 may be flawed from a gameplay perspective, with the many QTEs and a story that is incredibly railroaded, but I like the respect with which it treats the women in the game, be it Isabeau, Lakshmi or Devi. I like the way it doesn’t necessarily presume that I as a player am male and heterosexual and want to see women as pieces of flesh and not human beings. I like that the Frenchman, Lafayette, speaks French on occasion. I like that Devi and Lakshmi speak their native language to each other. In general, I would say that The Order|1886 displays a level of maturity not easily found in games. We’re past the “hur hur breasts” stage in this game, something not commonly found in games. It’s a breath of fresh air, and I love it.